Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #428: The Thing About Short Breaks

In the course of a “reboot” for a station, the first tactic is often to limit the length of breaks, and/or limit how many “Content” breaks there are in the hour.

The reaction is almost always the same: the air talent gripes about being “held back” or “not being given the time I need” to do Content.

I wish every air talent had taken a creative writing course in school, and/or written a LOT of commercials. It’s really important to learn about story construction – how to pull the listener in quickly, how a story moves from one point to another, how to be concise, and how to provide an ending that takes us somewhere, instead of just some lame “moral of the story” wrap-up or obvious punch line.
And it’s equally important to be able to fit something over a song intro, where you only have a few seconds.

The bottom line is that skill in constructing and telling a story + having time restrictions = expertise in written or spoken word. Sounding relaxed, but being as brief as possible, can quickly make everyone ELSE sound like they can’t shut up. That’s a huge advantage for you!

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #418: Composition!

With the emphasis put on storytelling nowadays, a lot of air talent is left in the dark, with no real coaching on HOW to become better at it. COMPOSITION is the missing skill a lot of the time. So here are three guidelines that I coach:

1. As you prep the break (or podcast), pay attention to what needs to be left OUT. Most C-level stories have too many “scenes”, too many names, or too many plot points that really aren’t necessary. Weed them out.

2. Endings are the second-most pressing need for improved storytelling. Avoid trying to “tie a neat bow around it” at the end. “Aesop’s Fable” endings are fine for children, but can sound sappy or redundant to most people. You’ll stand out more by NOT doing this. The same goes for the “self-help book” type of ending. Ick. Knock off the moralizing, please. And the ending should always be something that WASN’T said earlier in the break. Surprise me.

3. The first place where something unexpected is said is probably going to be the best ‘exit’. Taking the First Exit is surprising in itself, because most people drive right past it.

Hope this helps you.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #417: A Basic Storytelling Kit

This came up in a music radio session the other day with a morning team. Here’s an excerpt from their recap…

A key to the telling of any story is to think about how it unfolds. Just “winging it” is what real people do, but that’s not what sets apart air personalities and storytellers. You want to be constantly pointing forward, moving forward, to the next thing – that “reveal” that advances the story.

Example: You started the second News story with “…and alligators do not make good teammates…” followed by “(City) FC is based in Orlando Florida this year, and during Monday’s practice the team got a surprise…”

Gee, wonder what it will be? It’s certainly not a ’surprise’ anymore, because of the opening sentence. Flip those two lines around, and you tell a story. Say them in the order you did, and it lands with a thud.

This is the simplest example of the art of storytelling, and, as a result, pulling people closer to you.

Here are three ‘bonus crayons’…
(1) leading to the obvious will kill the story.
(2) So will repetition.
(3) And the Ending should always be something that wasn’t said earlier in the break.

You want to get concise, but still sound conversational and spontaneous.

Even if this is just a refresher course for you, I hope these thoughts help you. Be great today. Do something that someone might remember.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #400: One Story at a Time

You hear a great story. Then you hear another one. But the odds are overwhelming that you’ll only remember one of them.

A story can’t set up a story. That should be TWO breaks.

In Music Radio, the reason for this is usually just a lack of discipline. Or ego.

The cure: ONE story per break.

In Talk Radio, we often hear the host tell a story, then bring on a guest, who then tells another story. Or even worse, we often hear the host tell most of the story while introducing the guest, then that person comes on and tells the longer, more detailed, and often more boring version.

The cure: Make it simpler; more compact. Do a SHORT intro, then just let the guest tell his (or her) story. Then, INSTEAD of launching into a story of your own (which can come across like you’re trying to “top” the other person), simply REACT to the other person’s story.

This discipline is what I often refer to as “The Barney Fife Method” – meaning, like the deputy on the old Andy Griffith Show, Barney only HAD one bullet. I constantly tell people “Fire your one bullet. Then you have to ‘go back to the courthouse’ to get another one.”

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #374 – Dog Chasing Its Tail

The other day, I heard a morning team launch into a subject that should have taken about ten seconds to set up, but they took 4 times that. The classic “dog chasing its own tail” scenario. Lots of activity; no real progress.

Without quoting them, let’s compare it to a movie. Where the scene description would be “Doorbell rings. Then cut to the door being opened,” we instead got the meaningless (and uninteresting) details. The wife heard the doorbell ring, then told her husband, who was chilling out on the couch, to answer it, and even though he didn’t want to, he made himself get up and do it anyway…blah, blah, blah.

Cut to the chase, for crying out loud. Remember this:

Too many words “getting started” always leads to a letdown at the end – if the listener even makes it TO the end. The impact will always be reduced, no matter what.

Doorbell rings. You answer it. WHAT HAPPENED? THAT’S the important part.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #362 – Stories Aren’t About What Happened

This may sound counterintuitive, but stories aren’t about what happened.

For our purposes as air talent, they’re about what we FELT about what happened. The Emotion is the core, and that’s the thing that connects with the listener.

If all you can bring to the table is just some comment with no real emotion attached to it, or just some stupid punch line, you’re not going to connect.

Focus FIRST on the Emotion. THEN put the story together.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #347 – It’s Always About the Story

It’s ALWAYS about the Story.

I remember a couple of seasons ago, a contestant on “Survivor” told about his getting back home after the show was taped just in time to see his mom before she passed away. Time just STOPPED as I imagined that scenario in my own life. (This is just one reason why Survivor has lasted so long.)

YOUR responsibility as an air talent is to make the story as concise and as easy and logical sounding as you possibly can. Survivor is the best-edited show in the history of television; a perfect model for film editors and writers…and storytellers.

You’ll know a great break, a great story, when it takes virtually NO editing to make a promo out of it.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #317 – Storytelling: It’s all about the Ending

“Telling stories” is the mantra nowadays. And to a degree, that’s good. But…

The story has to actually be interesting. And there should be some definable Emotion at its core.

It also shouldn’t be too long. People are in the car. They’re not going to stay in the car because your story is so wonderful. They have things to do, meetings to attend, a job to show up on time for. And when the drive ends, listening to you ends.

And here’s the biggest factor – I spent all this time listening to your story, then the ending of it left me flat. We hear way too much of this nowadays, because storytelling is an ART, not just an exercise. Most people’s stories are boring, or longwinded, or repetitive, or have a “dud” ending, or try to “tie everything up with a neat bow around it” – or all of those things.

So the best way to really start developing the art of telling stories is to remember that IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ENDING.

My friend John Frost’s youngest daughter, when she first started telling stories to her friends, learned this from John, so she developed the habit of no matter what the story was, ending it with “…and then I found five dollars.”

At 9 or 10 years old, she had the magic ingredient – the Ending had a “twist” that the listener didn’t see coming.

Not all stories should end with something that dramatic or funny. Some stories just need a “resolution” – but even then, air talents often try to make it too “big” and miss the point. All you need is just a conclusion based on observance, or a “reveal” of some sort, not some massive “the moral of the story is…” type of thought, or “overview” of some principle.

Here’s how you hone this skill: Whatever you’re going to talk about, think of how it’ll end FIRST. Write it down, if you need to. Once you know where you’re going, you’ll travel in more of a straight line, and it’ll guide the “arc” of the story and shape the language that you’ll use. It’s SO simple, but like many things I coach, it’s deceptively simple. It takes vision, and it takes discipline. But those are what you OWE the listener. No one wants to hear an overly long story with an ending that’s a letdown.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.